September 23, 2014

Tenth Circuit: District Court Abused Discretion by Disregarding 10th Circuit’s Mandate

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Zinna v. Congrove on Thursday, June 5, 2014.

This is an appeal of a prior remand by the Tenth Circuit in Zinna v. Congrove, 680 F.3d 1236 (10th Cir. 2012), in which the Tenth Circuit determined the district court had abused its discretion in only awarding Zinna $8,000 in attorney fees. The Tenth Circuit remanded for issuance of a reasonable attorney fee award. On remand, the district court disregarded the mandate of the Tenth Circuit, thereby abusing its discretion.

Congrove asserted that Zinna failed to timely appeal the attorney fee award, because he had not appealed a November 2012 judgment awarding attorney fees for the trial court action until after a March 2013 ruling for “legal services of trial and appellate counsel.” The Tenth Circuit disagreed, noting that in the particular facts of this case, the trial court attorney fee award was not final until the March 2013 order. Because Zinna timely appealed the March 2013 order, the trial court attorney fee issue was timely appealed. The Tenth Circuit did not examine Zinna’s request for appellate attorney fees, deciding that the issue was inadequately briefed. However, the Tenth Circuit examined the award of trial court fees and determined that the district court abused its discretion in awarding only a minimal amount of attorney fees.

The district court judgment was affirmed as to appellate attorney fees due to inadequate briefing. The judgment was reversed and remanded as to the trial court attorney fees. Zinna’s request to have the matter reassigned to a different district court judge was granted.

 

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